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The Tale of Harrison

Harrison is a big, sweet, goofy Great Pyrenees mix whom I’ve been working with for a couple months. When we started, he would seem to not care about anything - he was difficult to motivate. When he did respond, and did the behavior that we were asking for, it would be at Harrison speed… super slow.

He would also often jump on people (seemingly randomly) and he’s so big, his feet would hit my shoulders and he’d almost knock me down. It was frustrating, because I couldn’t figure out why he was doing this. Was he stressed or frustrated? Was he trying to get attention? Seemed so random.

Then one day we were working on sending Harrison to the couch to lie down (the couch is his bed). He was doing well, but moving slowly. After he lumbered over and flopped down on the couch, I started talking to him and petting him - his head, then his belly and when I got to his tail, he lunged and tried to bite my hand. I looked at John (his human) and John looked at me.

“Has he ever done that before?” I asked.

“NO!” he answered.

“Take look at his tail - I’ll hold his head,” I said and started to pet and hold Harrison’s head.

“He’s got red bumps all over his tail,” John told me.

A Great Pyrenees has long thick fur, so we would have never seen the bumps if I hadn’t been massaging Harrison’s tail.

“I’d get that checked.” I told John

“I will,” John replied.

So the next day John took Harrison to the vet, and found out he had a skin infection. They shaved his tail, and put him on antibiotics and a cone around his neck.

After ten days, when the meds kicked in and the cone came off, Harrison was like a different dog. He was enthusiastic, quickly did his behaviors when we gave him a cue (command), stopped jumping on people, and started learning, and really having FUN with the training. The difference was amazing. All because he felt better.

The reason I am telling this story is to remind everyone that your dog’s behavior can be strongly effected by how he or she feels. Pain or infection can make a dog seem lazy, anxious, stubborn, or even aggressive. We all know that when we feel bad, or have an injury, we can be grumpy, react badly to criticism, and not feel like working.

Dogs can’t tell us how they feel, and often attempt to ignore the pain or discomfort to try to please us. It could be a sore leg or foot, an infection or virus, or even arthritis.

Harrison could have bitten me if he wanted to - and his lunging at my hand was his way of communicating to me that something was wrong. So if your dog has a change in behavior, remember Harrison’s tail, and get your dog checked for any physical issues, at the vet.

Hopefully, your tale will have a happy ending.

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